The Gender Gap in Psychotherapy

pp 259-264

Families at Risk for Father-Daughter Incest

  • Judith Herman
  • , Lisa Hirschman

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Sexual abuse of children within their families is a common problem that is only beginning to gain the attention of the mental health professions. As recently as 1975, the Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry 1 contained an estimated prevalence of all forms of incest of one case per million population. This estimate is most likely in error by four or five orders of magnitude. Several large surveys2–6 of predominantly white, middle-class women have indicated that between 20% and 35% of all women have had a childhood sexual encounter with an adult male, that 4%–12% of all women have had such an experience with a relative, and that about 1% of all women have been involved in father-daughter incest. The great majority of these sexual encounters are not disclosed at the time of occurrence and have never come to the attention of any social agency.